Wigan 0 Arsenal 0

  • By: Carl Markham, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: July 15 2012, 19:12 BST

Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal dropped two crucial points in the title race as they were held to a frustrating goalless draw by struggling Wigan at the JJB Stadium.

Heskey (left) and Gilberto battle for possession.

The Gunners failed to create any real clear-cut chances and their best opportunity came after just 42 seconds when striker Emmanuel Adebayor forced goalkeeper Chris Kirkland into a save low on the edge of his area after racing on to a through-ball.

Wigan defended heroically for a point to aid their cause and although the leaders moved two ahead of Manchester United, having played a match more, they missed an opportunity to increase the pressure on their main rivals.

The San Siro, where the Gunners produced an heroic performance to beat AC Milan 2-0 in midweek to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, must have seemed a long way away from the JJB mudbath they became stuck in.

Arsenal were quickly into their stride from the kick-off and after just 42 seconds Adebayor forced Kirkland into a smart stop.

Mathieu Flamini was fouled by Wilson Palacios on the edge of the penalty area but Cesc Fabregas' third minute free-kick was easily cleared.

Mario Melchiot then had to be alert to the danger posed by Adebayor, diving across to block his shot from 18 yards after the Togo striker's diagonal run from the halfway line.

Kirkland was called into action again in the 10th minute to tip Nicklas Bendtner's long-range shot around the post but Emile Heskey headed clear the resulting corner.

But Wigan were let off in the 16th minute when Bendtner was put through by Fabregas but completely missed his kick as he closed in on Kirkland and the ball ran off the end of the pitch.

In the 25th minute Bendtner was booked for a late challenge on Jason Koumas on the halfway line despite appearing to get to the ball first.

Philippe Senderos' 34th-minute foul on Heskey gave Koumas the chance to whip in a 25-yard free-kick but Gilberto cleared the initial cross and Michael Brown's acrobatic return sailed harmlessly wide.

Fabregas' header forced Kirkland into a good save low to his right at the expense of a corner but Wigan had justified complaints as Flamini had been clearly offside earlier in the move. Fortunately for referee Rob Styles the corner came to nothing.

Fabregas then became embroiled in a storm all of his making as, after bumping into Heskey on the touchline, he clutched his head as though the England striker had made contact when he had not.

However, both the Spanish midfielder and Heskey escaped further censure from Styles.

Three minutes after the interval Kirkland saved from Adebayor after a mix-up with his defender Paul Scharner as to who was claiming Gael Clichy's free-kick from the halfway line.

And Wigan were lucky to escape again moments later when Fabregas made a rare error of judgement in trying to square the ball to Bendtner when he was better placed to shoot himself from 10 yards.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce was the first to make a change when he brought on Antoine Sibierski for Heskey in the 55th minute.

Sibierski was soon into the action as his shot from Melchiot's right-wing cross deflected behind off Gallas for a corner but once more Wigan could not make it count.

Increasingly Wigan began to gain a foothold on the game and Gilberto was booked for tripping Palacios mid-pitch on the hour as the Honduran looked to break away.

Valencia's swerving 25-yard drive forced Manuel Almunia to palm away at full stretch and the goalkeeper then had to come to punch clear Koumas' corner.

Wenger made his move in the 65th minute, bringing on Robin van Persie for his first appearance since January 9 for Bendtner and Kolo Toure for Gilberto.

King was booked for a foul on Senderos, his only significant contribution in 72 minutes of football.

Sibierski was then cautioned for complaining, quite justifiably, to Styles that Arsenal had not returned an uncontested drop-ball to them after the hosts had kicked it out to allow Van Persie to receive treatment.

With seven minutes to go Van Persie, obviously still looking for match fitness, blazed over from 20 yards.

Bruce sent on Kevin Kilbane for King with three minutes to go to shore up the defensive effort before Kirkland smothered Fabregas' close-range shot late on.

Teams:

Wigan Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Edman, Valencia,Brown, Palacios, Koumas, Heskey (Sibierski 55),King (Kilbane 87).

Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Taylor, Bramble.

Booked: King, Sibierski.

Arsenal Almunia, Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas,Flamini, Silva (Toure 65), Hleb, Adebayor,Bendtner (Van Persie 65).

Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Song Billong, Justin Hoyte.

Booked: Bendtner, Silva.

Att: 19,676

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).